New tool for craniosynostosis treatment highlights Neuroscience Institute’s push to advance care

For pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Suresh Magge and his colleagues in the CHOC Neuroscience Institute, Christmas this year arrived in late June.

That’s when a 3D camera system was installed in the neurosurgery clinic that will significantly advance CHOC’s mission to treat craniosynostosis, says Dr. Magge, PSF neurosurgery division chief for CHOC and co-medical director of the Neuroscience Institute.

Craniosynostosis, which affects 1 in every 2,000 infants, causes an infant’s skull to fuse early, creating an irregular skull shape, and can lead to increased pressure on the brain as a child matures. This can lead to headaches, vision problems, and cognitive issues. 

The 3D motion-capture camera can, in seconds, capture a comprehensive array of images that will allow CHOC neurosurgeons to better analyze and measure in detail a child’s head. This, in turn, will allow them to enhance research in craniosynostosis and design the best possible treatments.

Dr. Suresh Magge, neurosurgery medical director
Dr. Suresh Magge, neurosurgery medical director

“This really makes a difference,” says Dr. Magge, noting that traditional 2D photos and measurements “only go so far.”

“This new camera allows us to get data quickly and safely,” Dr. Magge says.

CHOC recently had its first craniosynostosis patient imaged by the 3D camera.

A push to greatness

The new camera is a critical step in Dr. Magge’s push to advance the path of the Neuroscience Institute in becoming a world-class destination for neurological care.

Dr. Magge was recruited to CHOC last October after an 11-year tenure at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he started the medical center’s neurosurgery fellowship training program and was the director of medical student education in pediatric neurosurgery.

During his time at Children’s National, Dr. Magge started the region’s first minimally invasive craniosynostosis program. He has brought this surgery to CHOC as well.

The neurosurgery division also includes Dr. Michael Muhonen, Dr. William Loudon, and Dr. Joffre Olaya.

For the last several decades, the go-to surgery to treat craniosynostosis has been an open surgical correction called calvarial reconstruction. For this surgery, doctors must wait until the child is 6-12 months of age and perform a large surgery that involves opening the scalp, taking apart the entire skull, then putting it back together.

“It’s a good surgery, and most kids do well, but we have newer techniques that are less invasive,” Dr. Magge says. The open calvarial reconstruction surgery generally takes 4-6 hours and requires a hospital stay of 3-5 days, as well as a blood transfusion during surgery. 

Unlocking the skull

The minimally invasive procedure Dr. Magge learned during his fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital involves using an endoscope with a camera attached to its tip.

After making one or two small incisions, Dr. Magge goes under the scalp and then under the skull, using the endoscope to separate the skull from the underlying tissue. He then cuts out a piece of bone — 1 to 2 centimeters in width – to “unlock” the skull.

This surgery only takes about an hour, and most children don’t need a blood transfusion and can go home the next day. After surgery, they wear a molding helmet that helps to reshape the skull. This minimally invasive surgery is generally done by 3-4 months of age (earlier than the open surgery).

“The data shows this surgery works very well,” says Dr. Magge, who has given many presentations and written multiple papers about this procedure.

The aesthetic results have been shown to be excellent in many papers, Dr. Magge says. What still needs to be verified by research are the long-term cognitive outcomes of patients after either the open or minimally invasive surgery.

To that end, Dr. Magge launched a study about two years ago involving patients from multiple hospitals that looks at children five years after surgery. Dr. Magge plans to enroll patients from CHOC in the study.

He estimates the study will be completed in about two years. 

Working with plastic surgeon Dr. Raj Vyas, Dr. Magge says CHOC offers comprehensive cranio-facial services. 

Dr. Raj Vyas
Dr. Raj Vyas

“To be comprehensive,” he says, “you have to offer traditional surgery as well as minimally invasive surgery.” 

Part of the funding for the new 3D camera came from a CSO grant established by CHOC Vice President for Research and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Terence Sanger, a physician, engineer, and computational neuroscientist who also is vice chair of research for pediatrics at the UCI School of Medicine.

Dr. Terence Sanger
Dr. Terence Sanger

The 3D camera arrives as significant infrastructure changes are underway at the Neuroscience Institute: CHOC recently opened its new state-of-the-art outpatient center, establishing a clinical hub for caregivers to serve patients and families in a centralized location. Additionally, plans are underway to expand the hospital’s inpatient neuroscience unit.

“CHOC has been very supportive of the Neuroscience Institute,” Dr. Magge says. “I’m very excited.”

Learn more about the CHOC Neuroscience Institute.


CHOC’s virtual pediatric lecture series continues with Mandibular Distraction for Neonatal Airway Obstruction: New Insights and Future Directions.

This online discussion will be held Tuesday, March 30 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and is designed for general practitioners, family practitioners and other healthcare providers.

Dr. Raj Vyas, chief of plastic surgery at CHOC, will discuss several topics, including:

  • How to diagnose neonatal airway obstruction resulting from micrognathia and glossoptosis
  • Refering patients for multidisciplinary team evaluation
  • Managing the unstable airway in such children before, during and after mandibular distraction osteogenesis surgery.

This virtual lecture is part of a series provided by CHOC that aims to bring the latest, most relevant news to community providers. You can register here.

CHOC is accredited by the California Medical Association (CMA) to provide continuing medical education for physicians and has designated this live activity for a maximum of one AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™. Continuing Medical Education is also acceptable for meeting RN continuing education requirements, as long as the course is Category 1, and has been taken within the appropriate time frames.

Please contact CHOC Business Development at 714-509-4291 or with any questions.

In the Spotlight: Raj Vyas, M.D.

A pediatric plastic surgeon specializing in reconstructive plastic surgery has joined CHOC. Dr. Raj Vyas sees patients with a variety of complex conditions including clefts and craniofacial anomalies.

“Care at CHOC is delivered in such a multidisciplinary fashion, allowing for complex higher-level discussions and nuanced treatment planning in both standard and exceptional circumstances. There is also an emphasis on safety and process improvement, both critical for a state-of-the-art facility serving a complex and diverse patient population,”Dr. Vyas says.

Dr. Raj Vyas

The Southern California native attended UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. It was during his third year of medical school that he learned plastic surgery was his newfound passion.

“I unexpectedly fell in love with plastic surgery, particularly craniofacial surgery, after rotating on the service,” Dr. Vyas explains.  “I had little appreciation for the depth or breath of plastic surgery before this experience. I remember seeing a child with hypertelorism undergo a facial bipartition and I was fascinated.”

Following medical school, he completed a plastic surgery residency in Boston at the Harvard Combined Plastic Surgery Residency Program. He then completed a craniofacial surgery fellowship at New York University Medical Center, in New York, where he treated children and adults undergoing facial reconstruction for congenital anomalies or after suffering trauma and cancer. He also gained expertise in microvascular surgery and virtual surgical planning.

Dr. Vyas is working with the team at CHOC to build a multidisciplinary program in facial reanimation. By combining craniofacial surgery with microsurgery, he hopes to restore facial form and function in children and teens with facial paralysis.

“We have a great team at CHOC. Dr. Daniel Jaffurs has been an incredible mentor,” Dr. Vyas says. “My goal is to help make the program the best in Southern California and beyond.”

Dr. Vyas enjoys working with virtual scanning and 3D modeling technology available at CHOC, as it helps him plan and ensure optimal safety and precision before a procedure.

“Today, we are able to use cone beam CTs to significantly minimize radiation exposure while still obtaining high quality 3D imaging. This allows for virtual surgical planning that is both precise and extremely effective in reducing uncertainty in the OR,” Dr. Vyas explains. “In neonates with upper airway obstruction, for instance, who are scheduled to undergo mandibular distraction, we are able to customize bony osteotomies in a way that prevents injury to dental structures and nerves, while optimizing distraction vectors that improve the airway and maintain cosmetic considerations. We can also virtually anticipate the extent of facial movements and design custom splints that facilitate orthognathic (upper and lower jaw) surgery. The benefit of these types of pre-planned procedures are expanding as surgeons utilize this technology in a variety of craniofacial reconstructions.”

When this dedicated physician is not busy helping patients at the hospital, he volunteers with Global Smile Foundation, a nonprofit organization that treats children with facial congenital deformities in underserved countries. Most recently he went to Trujillo, Peru, where he helped over 100 patients.

“It’s so rewarding to work with children,” he says. “Their reconstructions have a long-life impact.”

Dr.Vyas has given many national and international presentations and authored numerous book chapters and peer-reviewed articles in leading specialty journals. He is board certified in plastic surgery and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Society of Craniofacial Surgery, American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association and International Cleft Lip and Palate Foundation, among other professional organizations.

In his spare time, Dr. Vyas enjoys spending time with his wife. He also likes hiking, biking and playing tennis.

To refer a patient to CHOC, please call 1-888-770-2462. To contact Dr. Vyas, please call 1-844-827-8000 option #5.